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Champion Buses Under the Spotlight After New Twist in NCTC Softball Disaster Saga

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 at 4:01 am    

Few people in Texas, especially those with college age kids, will forget the tragedy that unfolded on the I-35 in Oklahoma in September 2014. That’s when the Champion bus carrying the North Central Texas College lady’s softball team was sideswiped by a truck, killing 4 of the 15 young women in the team.

The convoluted story that has unfolded after the crash has taken a new twist. The attorney for the families that have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the bus company citing defects in the bus has now called for the entire fleet of buses to be recalled. The attorney, Todd Tracy, has used an independent expert to assess the safety record of the buses and has stated that the review findings are so disturbing that the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) should urgently address the matter.

The story so far

The crash happened on the I-35 in Oklahoma as the bus was bringing the team home to Gainesville back from a match at Bethany, Oklahoma. The bus was sideswiped by a 2013 Peterbilt semitrailer that had been traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of the median. The truck kept moving after the impact then disappeared in woodland on the side of the highway. The bus rolled right over and was badly damaged on the driver side of the vehicle. The driver himself, the team coach escaped more or less uninjured.

The investigation into the crash found that the driver, 53 year old Russel Staley, was initially to blame. He was found to be driving while impaired with synthetic cannabis and was also alleged to have had a history of drug abuse. He was eventually charged with four counts of manslaughter.

Staley commits suicide

The driver of the 18 wheeler that hit the bus carrying the NCTC softball team was found dead in March this year and it was assumed that he had committed suicide after a shotgun wound was found to his head at his home in Saginaw, Texas.

Families File Product Liability Lawsuit Against Champion Buses

Three of the four families involved in the tragedy have filed a lawsuit against Champion Bus Inc. The lawsuit was filed on Feb.1st this year. The lawsuit states that the bus involved was not “crashworthy.” Its construction meant all the difference between probable survival of the four girls killed in the crash and their death.

The attorney representing the families said that an examination of the bus’s construction showed that it was a mixture of “cardboard, foam and one and a half inch quarter tubing”. Mr. Tracy said that the side of the bus “peeled away because of its poorly made construction” and the passengers on that side of the bus were ejected as the bus rolled.

The families involved in the lawsuit had a chance to see the bus involved, a mid-sized bus and made several comments after the viewing. One mother, Misty Woodlee, said that it seemed “unbelievable” that anyone could be safe in such a poorly constructed bus. The father of another of the four girls, Keith Pelton, said that his daughter would never have been in the bus if he had known how it had been constructed.

Champion released a statement following the filing of the lawsuit reiterating what they had said earlier. The statement said that the NTSB had “fully investigated” the crash and had found no safety defects whatsoever and that the bus complied with all regulations.

Attorney issues call for inspection of Champion bus fleet following independent review

Following a 200 page report released by an independent safety expert, Todd Tracy, representing the families in the Feb 1st lawsuit, has called for the recall of all Champion buses built after 1998. The report states that 80% of all welds on the bus involved in the crash were not up to American Standard Welding Specifications. According to Tracy that meant that the welds on the bus were “defective”.

The report will be used as an important part of the evidence that will be available to back up the authenticity of the lawsuit.

Product liability lawsuits in McAllen Texas

If you live in the McAllen and believe that a product that you have bought was defective and has caused an injury of some sort to you or a member of your family you may have the right to sue the manufacturer or the distributor of the product. It is best to contact a product liability attorney as soon as you can to discuss your legal options.

Call a McAllen personal injury attorney at the Patino Law Firm as soon as you can on 956-631-3535 to discuss your situation and work out a legal solution that compensates you fairly for your loss.